Analyst: New iMacs could be around the corner

Apple's all-in-one desktop is getting closer to a refresh, according to a Kaufman Brothers analyst, though Apple may be trying to figure out if it should use dual-core or quad-core processors.

At least one analyst thinks Apple has new iMacs on tap but is mulling whether to include two cores or four.

Shaw Wu of Kaufman Brothers put out a research note Monday saying his latest run through Apple's supply-chain vendors indicates that new iMacs will be out sometime before March, or at most before June. It's been awhile since Apple tweaked the iMac in any substantial way, dating back to September 2007.

New iMac with updated processor may be out by June. Apple

The changes this time around would mostly be under the hood: Wu believes Apple is debating whether to use Intel's dual-core processors or newer quad-core processors in the new iMacs. The dilemma is performance versus power consumption, as well as concerns that using quad-core chips in the iMac could steal business from the Mac Pro, currently the only system in Apple's lineup that uses quad-core processors.

In any event, Wu believes Apple is also redesigning the way the iMac dissipates heat, which could allow it to put lower-power chips in this year and give it enough headroom to make speed bumps in the future without having to redesign everything all over again.

Desktop sales--a sore point in Apple's otherwise excellent first fiscal quarter--declined 25 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Desktop sales have been down for all vendors, but the overall desktop business declined just 16 percent in the past quarter, according to IDC.

Wu also believes that Apple could be waiting to time the launch of the new iMacs with the launch of Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system, which is expected to ship sometime around June. Snow Leopard is expected to improve the way Mac OS X handles multicore processing and graphics processing.

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